Grand Rapids Tests First Rural Autonomous Shuttle

The town launched a five-vehicle fleet aimed at improving mobility for residents in the rural community.

Read Time: 2 minutes

November 30, 2022, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


People examining parked goMARTI vans at launch event

goMARTI / goMARTI vans

Grand Rapids, Minnesota became the first rural U.S. community to test an autonomous shuttle system with the launch of a fleet of five Toyota Sienna vans equipped with autonomous driving technology by May Mobility.

According to an article by H. Jiahong Pan in the Daily Yonder, “These vans took to the road in September, and for the following 18 months they will navigate around Grand Rapids, located in northern Minnesota, in conditions unfamiliar to them: snow, extreme cold, and lots and lots of trees.” The autonomous vans, which come with a human driver ready to take over if needed, are free and can be requested by phone or mobile app and stop at 70 locations.

The program, if successful, could be the model for improving mobility for rural residents, particularly those living with disabilities or the elderly. “Meanwhile, communities struggle to keep up with building and maintaining the infrastructure they need to get around. Rural communities, such as Grand Rapids, often lack sidewalks on many streets, and while they want to build them out, not all of their streets are wide enough to handle them.”

Minnesota’s harsh winter weather could pose challenges to the shuttles, as could the unique needs of riders with disabilities who may require human assistance. “For now, the goMARTI operation is staffed by a number of full and part-time workers, some of whom have backgrounds in computer science.”

Similar programs may become more common in coming years, with $500 million in federal infrastructure funding dedicated to autonomous public transit development.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022 in The Daily Yonder

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

January 27, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

Aerial view of residential neighborhood in La Habra, California at sunset

Orange County Project Could Go Forward Under ‘Builder’s Remedy’

The nation’s largest home builder could receive approval for a 530-unit development under an obscure state law as the city of La Habra’s zoning laws hang in limbo after the state rejected its proposed housing plan.

1 hour ago - Orange County Register

Protesters with signs in Atlanta after Tyre Nichols murder

Memphis: Crime-fighting Camera Sheds Light on Police Abuse

The irony is unmistakable. Public surveillance cameras, long controversial in the criminal justice community, provided pivotal video footage of the beating of motorist Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers at a traffic stop on January 7.

2 hours ago - The New York Times

Photo of cars on two-way separated highway with illustrated lines between them indicating tech-driven decisions

How Autonomous Cars Could Impact Energy Use

The complex algorithms used by self-driving vehicle technology use massive amounts of energy, which could lead to a steep rise in carbon emissions as autonomous cars become more commonplace.

3 hours ago - Dezeen